On Saturday, Feb. 3, the U.S. Senate acquitted Donald Trump on the charge of inciting the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, raising questions about what awaits both the former president and the Republican Party as a whole.
Seven Republicans sided with 50 Democrats and independents against Trump. They areSenators Richard Burr of North Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
Still, the margin fell short of the two-thirds majority (67 votes) required to convict, demonstrating that the Republican Party is not yet willing to break from the controversial firebrand who defined the GOP for the past four years.
Many Republicans found themselves in a bind, facing electoral struggles associated with either defending or distancing themselves from the former president.
“GOP senators who vote to acquit may be protecting themselves against primary challenges from the more extreme wing of their party in 2022, or even 2024,” Wendy Schiller, a professor of political science at Brown University, said. “But they may simultaneously make themselves more vulnerable to defeat in a general election.
Because Trump has avoided acquittal, he will now be able to run for president again in 2024, despite possibly facing criminal and civil court proceedings in the coming years.
“He’s a strong force in the party.” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said. “There’s no doubt about that.”
Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene – who herself has proved to be a provocative figure in politics in recent weeks – agreed with Tuberville.
“The party is his,” Greene said. “It doesn’t belong to anyone else.”
However, some Republicans remain skeptical of Trump’s political prospects in 2024 and beyond, including former South Carolina Nikki Haley, who has recently criticized his rhetoric.
“He went down a path he shouldn’t have, and we shouldn’t have followed him,” Haley said. “I don’t think he can [run again]. He’s fallen so far.”
Nonetheless, even if he were not to run, Saturday’s decision shows his lasting influence on Republicans.
After leaving the White House on Jan. 20, Trump has been spending most of his time at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Since he has been banned indefinitely from Twitter, he has no way to publicly communicate with the masses either, leaving his followers in the dark.
According to Capri Cafaro, an executive in residence at American University and a former Democratic member of the Ohio state senate, this acquittal could be a “rallying” cry for Trump and his supporters, emboldening them for the future.
Conversely, Schiller believes that it may be difficult for Trump to recover.
“If a corporation were to offer him a speaking appearance, the social media backlash would be swift and severe, with possible boycotts of their products,” Schiller said. “Even holding conferences or events at Trump properties will be a problem for large publicly traded companies, or companies that provide a direct-to-consumer product.”